Two Gems: Ecuador And Peru

Galapagos and Machu Picchu are absolutely unique and will leave you spellbound

11/1/2017 5:02:57 PM
written By : Jay Brara Print

There are two gems that are often overlooked in the traveller’s bucket list: Ecuador and Peru. Or more famously, Galapagos and Machu Picchu. They definitely belong in your list of destinations. Tourist-friendly, warm, safe and delightful. Did you know that Lima, capital of Peru, is the gastronomic capital of the Americas? That Quito, capital of Ecuador at 9,350 feet, is the highest capital city in the world, and a beautiful one! That Lake Titicaca in Peru with its 70 man-made totora-reed floating islands is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet? That the amazing city of Cusco at an elevation of 11,200 feet was the historic capital of the Inca empire for nearly 300 years and is now designated a Unesco World Heritage Site? Hope that piqued your interest… and that’s just a start!

My wife Geeta and I went on an amazing 16-day active vacation through the two countries with Gate I Travel. I usually plan my own itinerary. But given that we had eight flights, bus and train rides, restricted entries into Galapagos and Machu Picchu, hotels needed in the right locations, all the bookings and precision involved too many logistics, which fortunately the travel agency handled very well. That is not to discourage those that might want to make their own arrangements independently; both countries are well-organised for both the budget and the well-heeled traveller.

Though each of the places mentioned above is incredibly unique, very beautiful, diverse and not to be missed, the most charming of them all to me is Machu Picchu. It was built by the sun-worshipping, child-sacrificing Incas with amazing artistry and precision high in the Andes mountains in Peru at 8,000 feet overlooking the deep valley of the Urubamba river. The location is simply magical and leaves you spellbound.  To get there, we took a scenic train ride from the Sacred Valley’s Ollantaytambo station along the spectacular Urubamba river to the pretty little town of Aguas Calientes, and then a short bus ride up to Machu Picchu.  In Machu Picchu, built in the mid-1400s, the Incas fused huge blocks of chiselled granite cut artistically to fit without the use of mortar or cementing agents. They designed a sophisticated system of terracing with layers of stone, sand and soil so water would not permeate down to the foundations, yet they would be able to grow bountiful crops. They had an excellent system of aqueducts bringing natural rain and spring water for household use and irrigation. The astronomical alignments are perfect with an elaborate sun temple occupying a prominent place in the city. It was abandoned in the late 1500s when the Spaniards overthrew the Inca empire, and was not discovered till Hiram Bingham stumbled up on it in 1911. Though hidden and covered with vegetation for over 300 years, the structures remained amazingly sound and intact, a tribute to the ingenuity of the Incas.

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